'Turning point' helps send Taconic into Western Mass. basketball semis


PITTSFIELD -- Bill Heaphy was ready to call it a day.

The coach's Taconic boys basketball team was trailing Division I Amherst by 20 points in the second half, and he figured it was time to clear off his bench. His players convinced him otherwise.

"I said ‘You know what? All right, let's see what happens,' " Heaphy said. "Lo and behold, 21 seconds left, we got the ball down one. Even though we lost, it was like a collective moment where we all just said ‘Let's at least go down swinging.'

"We didn't really play well up until that point. That seemed to be a turning point with certain guys."

The No. 4 Braves have ridden the momentum since that Jan. 30 loss to win six of their last seven and earn a spot in tonight's Western Massachusetts Division II semifinals. Taconic faces No. 1 Greenfield inside the Curry Hicks Cage at the University of Massachusetts at 8 p.m.

The Braves (13-8) have become more consistent, getting contributions beyond leading scorers Shaquille Ardrey and Trayvon Sims.

"We were playing like we didn't want to play anymore [against Amherst]," Ardrey said. "It sparked the team up good. Now we have a bunch of people ready to play."

Mike Taylor and Drew Scace are among that group. The two big men, part of a huge junior class, have boosted Taconic. Their production has taken the pressure off the guards.

"Every person is a different weapon," Scace said. "No one can stop Mike because he's huge, period. I'm more versatile. There's Shaq who can shoot, drive. There's [Sims] who can put points up. [Tyler Murphy] can shoot."

The Braves will need all of those weapons to reach their second Western Mass. final in three seasons following a loss to Sabis in 2011. The Green Wave (19-2) have lost just twice this year and beat Palmer by nearly 40 points in the quarterfinals last week.

But Heaphy doesn't mind, saying he'd "rather be the hunter than the hunted." After a tough season last year, he said it feels like there's some momentum on Valentine road. His players agree.

"We started to get focused and play more together as a team," Sims said. "At the beginning it was kind of rough. It was a bad season last year, a lot of guys quit. We just came together.

"First, we were a team. Now, we're a family."

To reach Christopher James:
or (413) 496-6252.
On Twitter: @BECJ2K


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